Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kansas City's Top Ten cheap tacos

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 11:55 AM

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Tacos may be the best-loved Mexican-American dish served in the United States. The Food Lover's Companion describes a taco as "a Mexican-style 'sandwich' consisting of a folded corn tortilla filled with various ingredients such as beef, pork, chicken, chorizo sausage, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, onion. ... Most tacos in the United States are made with crisp (fried) tortilla shells, but there are also soft (pliable) versions."

Over the years, tacos -- which are relatively inexpensive to prepare -- have become a fast-food staple at national chains such as Taco Bell (which started in the early 1960s when a former Marine, Glen Bell, began selling tacos from his hot-dog stand) and local drive-ins like the 47-year-old Humdinger Drive-In (with its vintage sign at right) at 2504 E. Ninth St., which sells tacos by the bag (you can get a dozen for $11.25).

Oh yes, there are terrific tacos all over town, but after taking a taco tour, Fat City's Jonathan Bender and Charles Ferruzza settled on this group of ten as the best cheap tacos in town:

10. Fric & Frac,

1700 W. 39th St. For more than three decades, patrons have stopped in

this 39th Street saloon for tacos. They're filling and cheap -- enough

said.

9. La Chiquita, 265 N. Seventh St., Kansas City, Kansas. The $1.25 tacos come from a sidewalk window in a squat brick building. A modest, albeit salty, good cheap taco that's available with carne asada or barbacoa (the latter only offered on Fridays and Saturdays).

8. El Pulgarcito, 5921 Merriam Dr. in Merriam. The carne asada is tender and tastes of the grill. These look and feel homemade -- the right introductory taco ($1.75) for the uninitiated.

7. Charritos Taqueria, 3831 Independence Ave. Skirt steak and roasted cactus spill out of the Tacos Aztecas ($1.85), while a salsa made with poblano peppers adds a nice bit of heat. The amount of filling almost guarantees the use of a fork.

6. Nara, 1617 Main. This trendy Japanese robata grill and sushi bistro may seem an unlikely place to find tacos, but during happy hour (3-7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 3-6 p.m. Friday and 4-6 p.m. Saturday; 10 p.m.-closing Monday through Saturday), the fish tacos are a very happy discovery. Crispy wonton shells are filled with flaky white fish, mango slaw and "dynamite sauce" made with mayonnaise and hot chili sauce.

5. Veracruz, 731 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City,

Kansas. With tax, four tacos came to $4.07 -- most on the whiteboard

menu outside were 89 cents. The barbacoa was delicate, sitting on a

combination of queso blanco, shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes inside

a white corn tortilla. For sheer value, this is a winner. 

4. Bichelmeyer Meats, 704 Cheyenne Ave., Kansas

City, Kansas. Fresh, hot and directly next to the 60-foot meat counter

-- this is our kind of retail sample (4 for $6). Peppery juice drips

from the lengua (tongue) and asada (steak). Only sold on Saturdays.

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3. Yummo,

1360 Walnut. Chef Rob Dalzell's frozen yogurt shop in the Power &

Light District offers delicious Korean tacos -- three for two bucks --

during the week. There are pork, chicken and short rib versions --

pictured at right -- served in a soft tortilla wrapper with

onion-cilantro relish and house-made kimchi. 

2. Cancun Fiesta Fresh,

4019 Pennsylvania. Simple but well prepared. The strongest flavors are

the chopped onion and cilantro. Chicken and ground beef tacos

(regularly $1.75) are a steal on Tuesdays at $1 each.

1. El Camino Real, 903 N. Seventh St., Kansas City,

Kansas. The ultimate local taco experience, this storefront restaurant

offers the real thing. In fact, if you sit up front, near the big

window (with a view of gamblers heading up the street to the 7th Street

Casino), you can watch one of the employees mixing up the masa and

making fresh corn tortillas, which are tossed on the grill. The tacos

are $1.50 each and fantastic. The selection includes beef tongue,

chorizo, fish, carne asada, a poblano chile-and-cheese, and carne

asada. The tacos are served with small bowls of chopped fresh cilantro,

onion, pico de gallo and a very hot salsa. A large picture of the image

of Our Lady of Guadalupe looks down at all the diners, which adds an

even more spiritual quality to a heavenly culinary experience.  

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